At a confidential meeting over the summer, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey boasted to influential evangelical leaders that he was the state’s “first pro-life governor since Roe vs. Wade,” reminded them that he had vetoed legislation allowing gays to wed and, in a knowing reference to the Gospel of Matthew, spoke of his moral obligation to help the “least of us.”
But even as Mr. Christie sought to persuade them of his conservative credentials, his own deep-seated discomfort with ideological purity kept creeping in. He suggested that if the Republican Party wanted to win back the White House, it needed to look to a candidate with broad appeal, like himself or Jeb Bush, said one attendee, Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. If it instead demanded orthodoxy, Mr. Christie’s message was “they can pick somebody else and lose,” Mr. Anderson recalled.
With the contretemps over lane closings on the George Washington Bridge on the back burner for now and Mr. Christie laying groundwork for a Republican presidential run, the persistent skepticism, unease and, in some cases, distrust that he faces from social and religious conservatives may be the biggest and least understood obstacle in his path.
…“He has appointed some really terrible judges to the State Supreme Court,” said Maggie Gallagher, a prominent social conservative, writer and senior fellow at American Principles Project, a right-leaning think tank.